UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Lake Wylie

Erik Luzak Wants to Go Fast

Erik Luzak Wants to Go Fast
Erik Luzak (photo by Eric Riley)

Erik Luzak is a man who likes speed. He’s an adrenaline junkie who spends his winters ripping through snow on a sled (or, as we in the States call it, a “snowmobile”) or a snowboard. He rides wakeboards and mountain bikes. His girlfriend, Emily Roberts, is a well-known motorcycle rider in Canada and one of Luzak’s biggest supporters.

But the biggest thrill for Luzak – despite what he says about the thrill of running a bass boat at 70 mph – might just be what happens when the motor shuts off and the wake dissipates. Luzak is a dedicated competitive bass angler.

Like most things Luzak does off the water, he likes to fish fast when he’s on it. He’s a power-fishing fanatic who often has to remind himself to slow down when the conditions call for it. But make no mistake, with the momentum Luzak has right now, his career isn’t slowing down at all; it’s picking up speed.

 

Unusual beginnings

Luzak’s fishing career sprouted not from tradition, habit or environment – quite the opposite, actually. As a child, it was exposure to bass fishing by virtue of voyeur-like proximity to the water, and to the people he witnessed catching big fish from a distance.

“I was lucky enough to grow up with a cottage on a lake called Balsam Lake, and it’s a pretty popular stop on our local tour,” he explains. “As a young kid I would see these bass boats in front of my cottage fishing these grass lines and pulling these big bass out, and I got really into it.”

Unlike many hardcore anglers, it wasn’t Luzak’s father, Bruno, who got him into fishing. In fact, it was the younger Luzak who got his father into the sport.

“It became time to get a family boat, and I convinced my dad to get a crossover bass boat for the family, and then I convinced him to fish some tournaments with me,” Erik adds. “When I was 12 years old, I was teaching him how to throw a baitcaster.

“My dad, for someone who didn’t really care about fishing, he sure got into it just for me, so I’ll always be grateful for that. He got into it so I could get into it, essentially.”

Erik’s mom, Elizabeth, was just as supportive, attending his tournament weigh-ins and doing her best “hockey mom” routine, as he describes it. When it came to birthday or Christmas gifts, Erik’s parents never failed to provide their son with all the fishing books he could want.

From those books spawned understanding and ideas about how to catch bass, and from there came the fishing shows on television and, eventually, the spread of knowledge through fishing tournaments with friends and peers of all ages.

Now his peers are some of the very same people he grew to idolize in his early years.

“We have a local legend here in Canada, Bob Izumi, who’s also an FLW Costa pro,” Erik says. “He was an idol of mine. I’d watch his fishing show every morning. I’d read his books. Now it’s cool to be a peer of his. I’m currently running his old Ranger.”

Erik has been fishing tournaments for 20 years, but the biggest tournament of his bass fishing career is still on the horizon, and he’ll be calling a lot more legends of the sport his peers when it rolls around next August.

 

Chasing the Tour

Erik Luzak is as much of a self-made professional angler as you’re likely to find. In college, as a business marketing student, the already-addicted-to-fishing Luzak couldn’t stand the thought of giving up his summer fishing, so when it came time to do a mandatory summer co-op for school, he formed his own company called “Bass Class,” which fulfilled the requirements of the co-op and allowed Luzak to guide and instruct anglers on his local lakes. Having found success with Bass Class, he kept the operation running and used that money to help pay for college.

Eventually, Luzak was forced to all but abandon guiding on his local lakes (though he still makes time for a trip or two on occasion, and Bass Class is still alive and well) to take on a full-time job as a sales rep for Canada Pro – the Canadian rep agency for Okuma, Livetarget and Northland, among others – and used his experience in that position to make contacts in the industry and get his feet wet on the business side of fishing.

“It was great,” he admits. “I got to know the fishing industry more. But I just found it was starting to take me off the water too much. Once you get into the fishing industry on the business side, you don’t spend as much time on the water.”

With his focus still very much on fishing professionally, Luzak switched gears and took a job with an environmental association in Canada that does environmental site assessments to confirm or refute the presence of ground contamination on various properties. As a training coordinator for the company, he has just enough time and flexibility to make room for what he still sees as his primary passion.

“It gives me a little more freedom to make my own schedule,” he says. “I travel a ton, so I am across the country all the time. In fact, right before Guntersville [for the Costa FLW Series Championship] I was in Alberta running a course, and I flew back into Ontario, hooked up the boat and drove straight to Alabama. I feel like I’m just zigzagging across the continent sometimes, but I like it.”

It’s his success at the Costa Championship on Lake Guntersville that has now thrown open a new door for Luzak and his professional fishing dreams. As the top finisher in the International Division (37th overall), he qualified for the 2019 FLW Cup and a spot on the 2020 FLW Tour, should he choose to accept the roster spot.

“I feel like life gives a few moments here and there to do what you really love and what you want to do,” he says. “I think when everyone gets that choice, do you jump on it or do you take the safe route and not?”

Luzak wants to fish the Tour in 2020. It’s his dream to make a living as a professional angler. But he admits that finding the money for entry fees is going to make or break that dream, for the time being, at least.

“My goal is to just fish as hard as I can and really commit to it and try to make some good connections with marketing partners to make it possible for me to fish full time,” he explains. “If I could fish full time for a living, that would be my end goal.”

 

First things first

Finding that sponsor money to fish the Tour is very much on Luzak’s mind, but his more immediate and tangible focus is the 2019 Cup on Lake Hamilton next August. No entry fees and a small tournament field mean big opportunities for the Canadian pro, who already has two Competitive Sport Fishing League (CSFL) National Classic wins and a 2018 FLW Canada Cup victory to his name in his home country.

But as Luzak admits, the competition at any FLW Cup is slightly more intimidating than anything he’s faced so far, and no Canadian has ever won the sport’s biggest tournament.

“I’m going to try to not think about how big of a deal it is,” he admits. “You don’t want to stress yourself out more than you have to. I’m going to take it like any other tournament. I’m going to use the fact that there are only about 50 pros in it as a relaxing point.

“Coming into a tournament when you know there’s going to be 200 pros, it’s quite intimidating. Now I’m against 50 of the nation’s best pros, so that’s intimidating too, but knowing there’s going to be less boats on the water is a nice feeling.”

Luzak wasn’t expecting to win the FLW Canada Cup and a spot in the Costa FLW Series Championship. He didn’t pre-fish Guntersville at all, save for the four official practice days leading up to the tournament. Now, with roughly nine months to prepare for Lake Hamilton and the 2019 FLW Cup, he’s already planning on making some trips 18 hours south of home to get a feel for the lake and probably “buy a bunch of tackle I’ll never use.”

It’s all preparation for what could be his springboard to his ultimate goal of fishing professionally and making a living doing it. The tricky part is slowing down enough to wait patiently for it to arrive.

 

Home away from home

Where Luzak calls home depends on what time of year you ask. He travels constantly, both for work and tournaments, and life on the move can be a lonely proposition.

But Emily Roberts is as supportive a girlfriend as Luzak could ask for, and the couple hopes to one day travel around the U.S. while he’s jetting from Tour stop to Tour stop, Roberts tagging along with her motorcycle. It’s a dream that seems more real now than ever with a Tour roster spot available to Luzak.

He’s also found company in the slew of Canadian anglers who have fished FLW events with Luzak in the U.S.

“Team Canada, we hung out together [at the Costa Championship]. Cooper Gallant and Danny McGarry, they finished second behind Ashley [Rae] and I in the Canada Cup. We went out to dinner with them.

“Cooper and I were main competitors there, but it didn’t feel that way. Cooper’s a good buddy of mine. I really was rooting for him during the Costa Championship because he just puts in so much time; you can really see that drive. There’s no doubt in my mind Cooper is going to be an FLW Tour pro soon.”

Luzak and Rae have their own kinship, having won the FLW Canada Cup as a team this year. Rae, a well-known multi-species writer, blogger and angler in Canada, rode with Luzak on the 18-hour drive-straight-through trip to Guntersville, and the pair practiced together all four days before going their separate ways as a boater (Luzak) and co-angler (Rae) in the event.

“I’m really pumped for Ashley,” Luzak says. “She’s a great bass angler, but she spends a lot of time fishing for other things as well. So I was really, really excited for her to come down, and she did such a great job. She committed to all four days of practice with me. She took it seriously and helped me the whole way with practice.”

Luzak’s Canadian brethren will always be a source of support and kinship, though his ultimate goal involves an adrenaline rush that can’t be shared with anyone else.

“If I made the top 10 [at the Cup], if I can get on that stage in the final day, that would be unbelievable,” he says. “I’m going to be in that stadium no matter what. I just want to be up on that stage with my bag of fish on the final day. I don’t think I’m going to believe it that I’m there until I’m actually there. I don’t think it’s going to sink in until then, and I can’t wait for that moment. It’s going to be amazing.”

 

*All photos provided by Eric Riley

Tags: justin-onslow  angler-features 

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